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Jeff Gordon hasn't cooled off from Fontana

March 28, 2014, Kenny Bruce,

Veteran tests at Sonoma, concedes 'we all play a role' in tire incident

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon participated in a Goodyear tire test this past week at Sonoma Raceway.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he did not discuss last week's tire issues that surfaced during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway.

"I did not," Gordon said Friday at Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday's STP 500. "No, I'm too mad at them to have a discussion with them about that right now. I went and did everything I could to put the best test together that I could, to learn what we could to go to Sonoma and win. Tires aren't an issue there … so I did not discuss it with them."

Several teams had tire-related problems during last week's Auto Club 400, including defending series champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson and Gordon were running 1-2 in the waning laps of the event when Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet slowed with a flat left rear tire.

With the series turning to Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track, next week, Gordon said he could foresee similar problems arising there as well.

"We saw issues there last year," he said. "I think as a team we're already looking at things we were doing last year that we can … try to improve as far as abusiveness on the tires.

"My question is, did Goodyear test there? Because from what I understand they didn't test in California and I think that that obviously was a mistake. Because I think some of those things may have shown up in that test. Did they test at Texas? If they didn't I hope they have a backup plan because I do think we're going to have some issues there."

This past week's Sonoma test was the first Goodyear tire test of the season. Although teams tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the offseason as NASCAR ironed out its 2014 rules package, the tire combinations used at Phoenix, Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway were the same builds used at those tracks last season.

The new rules package, formed specifically for the series' intermediate tracks, has resulted in increased downforce on the cars and higher speeds, particularly in the turns. It was not finalized until mid-December.

Goodyear officials said the timing of the process did not allow for on-track testing for the initial races on the schedule.

At Auto Club, Goodyear's Greg Stucker said the issues were the result of chassis adjustments and teams running less than the minimum suggested air pressures in an attempt to create more grip.

"Don't get me wrong, we all play a role in it," Gordon said. "You can easily sit here and say, 'well the teams were not conservative enough; there were teams that weren't having issues.'

"Well, we saw issues on Saturday and we detuned our car from a tire-abusive standpoint; we still had a great race car but we were having problems throughout the whole day. We were one of the fortunate ones that never had one that came apart. Every pit stop, there were plenty of signs that it could happen to us just like it could happen to anybody else. I think when you have that many cars that are that close to being on the edge or going over the edge then the tire is too aggressive or something else needs to be looked at.

"With the ride heights and everything they're doing, the teams have gotten more aggressive, no doubt about it. But that's what it's going to take to win races. If no tire test happens at that track, I would question why not."


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